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INFERTILITY HOL-emblem1-web.GIF (3556 bytes)

Controlling Sperm-Damaging Factors

Scrotal Temperature

The scrotal sac normally keeps the testes at a temperature of between 94 and 96 degrees Fahrenheit. At temperatures above 96 degrees, sperm production is greatly inhibited or stopped completely.

The average scrotal temperature of infertile men was found to be significantly higher than that of fertile men. Reducing scrotal temperature in infertile men will often make them fertile.

You can reduce the scrotal temperature by:
bulletNot exercising too hard
bulletNot wearing tight-fitting underwear or tight jeans, and
bulletAvoiding hot tubs.

bulletAvoid excessive exercise such as jogging, use of rowing machines, simulated cross-country ski machines, or treadmills. Also stay away from wearing synthetic fabrics, exceptionally tight shorts, or tight bikini underwear. If you exercise, allow your testicles to hang free to allow them to recover from heat buildup.
bulletWear boxer-type underwear
bulletPeriodically apply a cold shower or ice to the scrotum.
bulletA device called a testicular hypothermia device or "testicle cooler" may be useful in reducing scrotal temperatures. If you use this device, wear it daily during waking hours.
bulletIncreased scrotal temperature can be due to the presence of a varicocele (varicose veins that surround the testes). A large varicocele can cause scrotum temperatures high enough to inhibit sperm production and motility. Surgical repair may be necessary, but scrotal cooling should be tried first. (See our section on treatment for surgical solutions.)

Infections and Infertility

Infections in the male genitourinary tract, including infections of the epididymis, seminal vesicles, prostate, bladder, and urethra, are thought to play a major role in many cases of male infertility. The presence of antisperm antibodies is a good indicator of a chronic infection in the absence of any contradictory findings.

A large number of bacteria, viruses, and other organisms can infect the male genitourinary system. Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common and the most serious.

Chlamydia results in a sexually transmitted disease. In women, chlamydia infection can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and scarring of the fallopian tubes. Previous chlamydia infection accounts for a large number of cases of female-factor infertility. In men, chlamydia infection is the major cause of acute nonbacterial prostatitis and urethritis. The symptoms are pain or burning sensations upon urination or ejaculation.

More serious is chlamydia infection of the epididymis and vas deferens. The resultant damage to these organs parallels the tubal damage in women; serious scarring and blockage can occur. During an acute chlamydia infection, the use of antibiotics is essential. Chlarnydia can be treated with tetracyclines and erythromycin.

Avoiding Estrogens

Increased exposure to estrogens during fetal development, as well as during the reproductive years, is a major cause of the increase in the number of disorders of development and function in the reproductive system, including that of their offsprings.

Consumption of DES by pregnant women

Between 1945 and 1971, several million women were treated with DES (diethylstilbestrol) during their pregnancy if they had diabetes of pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or were likely to miscarry. By 1970, the side effects of DES became better known and it was banned for human consumption. The mothers who took DES while pregnant delivered male babies who had an abnormally high developmental problems of the reproductive tract as well as decreased semen volume and sperm counts.

Dairy Products

Although synthetic estrogens like DES are now outlawed for human consumption, many livestock and poultry are still hormonally manipulated, especially dairy cows to fatten the animals and help them grow faster.

Milk of the cows treated hormonally contains substantial amounts of estrogen.

Since 1940, the consumption of dairy products went up. Ironically, the sperm counts dropped proportionally suggesting a strong correlation between the dairy product consumption and drop in sperm count. If you are suffering from low sperm count or low testosterone level, avoid consuming any hormone-fed animal products and milk products.

Drinking water

There are reports that drinking water is contaminated with estrogens. One possibility is that the estrogens were recycled from excreted synthetic estrogens (birth-control pills) at water treatment plants and eventually found their way into the water supply. Drinking this water may be harmful to male sexual vitality. If you suspect that your water supply is contaminated, you may want to switch to purified or bottled water to prevent exposure to synthetic estrogen.

Other Environmental Contaminants

There are other sources of estrogen from the environment (food, water, and air) that can weaken male sexual vitality. Many of the chemicals such as PCBS, dioxin, and DDT are weakly estrogenic and are resistant to biodegradation. They accumulate over period of time. These toxic chemicals are known to interfere with sperm production and the sexual development.

Environmental Estrogen Has The Greatest Effect During Fetal Development

Estrogen has the greatest impact during fetal development. Animal studies have shown that these estrogens inhibit the multiplication of the sperm-producing cells of the testes known as Sertoli cells. The number of Sertoli cells is directly proportional to the amount of sperm that can be produced.

Sertoli cell formation occurs primarily during fetal life and before puberty. It is controlled by follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

Animal studies have shown that estrogens administered early in life inhibit FSH secretion, resulting in a reduced number of Sertoli cells which results in reduced sperm counts in adults. A similar effect is believed to happen for humans too. For example, the sons of women exposed to DES during pregnancy show reduced sperm counts like the animals exposed to estrogens. Even if a mother didn't take DES, she may have followed the typical low-fiber, high-fat diet. Such a diet is associated with higher levels of estrogens because, with out the fiber, excreted estrogens are reabsorbed from the intestines.


If testosterone levels are low or marginal, or if estrogen levels are elevated, a diet rich in legumes (beans), especially soy foods may be of benefit. Soy is a good source of isoflavonoids. The isoflavonoids in soybeans have about 0.2 percent of the estrogenic activity of estradiol, the principal human estrogen. They bind to estrogen receptors and prevents the binding of the body’s own estrogen to the receptor. They also bind to the estrogen to make them less potent. Soy, as well as other legumes, nuts, and seeds, may aid in the manufacture of steroid hormones, including testosterone.

Heavy Metals

Sperm are also particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. A hair mineral analysis for heavy metals should be performed on all men who have reduced sperm counts to rule out heavy metals as a cause.

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